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  1. Understanding the Web with Jeremy Keith | The Web Ahead

    But this email could only be from a bot because no person is actually going to say these things. When it’s internalized, why do I think it’s a reasonable thing that people would say this? Bringing it into the light diminishes the power. That’s why I really like this exercise of sketching out your inner critic.

    There were other things that were about getting your ideas out of your head and onto paper. Like mind maps. Really great stuff. It really encouraged people. People started to get into the mood for writing. I want to take an hour or two, literally lock people in a room and say, “We’re not leaving this room until you’ve written this blog post,” “We’re not leaving this room until you’ve written down that technique you’ve been talking about but haven’t written down.” Make them do it, but there’s a time limit. You have to do it now. It was a whole morning about getting over your inner critic, getting the ideas out of your head, and getting them down. But not really shaped. It’s more about getting them out of your head.

    I led the second morning, which was more about how you could shape them. That was a lot of fun. I’d never done this before but thought I’d give it a shot.

    I did something similar to what you were talking about: looking at other things, like film or theater, and asking, “How do they shape plot to make them more interesting?” If we could separate the plot from the narrative device, you could have a toolkit of narrative devices.

    First, I got them to take a story and give the plot in chronological form. For example, Star Wars, Little Red Riding Hood, or Jurassic Park. One point after another on Post-It notes. Then I took out a stack of cards. Each one had different narrative devices. For example: flashback. Find a crucial moment in the chronological plot and put that at the start and build up to it. Because that’s what happens in movies with flashbacks. Or backstory. Take a long zoom and put something into historical context. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, we begin with the dawn of man. In The Fellowship of the Ring, we have this huge thing from the first age before we even get to the hobbits in the Shire. Can you do that with the story you’ve got? It was a lot of fun. There was the distancing effect. What if you were to write a police report? There’s no embellishment or adjectives. Just the facts. That can have a powerful effect on a story. So they got dealt a random card. They didn’t get to choose. They had to take the story they already had — Star Wars or Jurassic Park or Little Red Riding Hood — and they had to use that device on it. Dialogue was another one. How can you tell a story where you don’t describe the action and you only have two characters describe the action to each other? Like The Breakfast Club. It was complete dialogue. They describe things but you don’t see it happening. They do this to their story, then we revisit what they’d done the day before, when it was about getting the stuff out of their head with brain dumps and mind maps. Now they’ve got their plot, the chronological part. Then I dealt them another random card and they had to apply that device to it. It became fun.

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